BBC Radio 4 is a radio station owned and operated by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) that broadcasts a wide variety of spoken-word programmes including news, drama, comedy, science and history. It replaced the BBC Home Service in 1967. The station controller is Gwyneth Williams, and the station is part of BBC Radio and the BBC Radio department. The station is broadcast from the BBC's headquarters at Broadcasting House, London. On 21 January 2019 Williams announced she was quitting the role. There are no details of when or who will be her replacement.
It is the second most popular domestic radio station in the UK, broadcast throughout the UK, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands on FM, LW and DAB, and can be received in eastern and south eastern counties of Ireland, the north of France and Northern Europe. It is also available through Freeview, Sky, Virgin Media and on the Internet. Its sister station, BBC Radio 4 Extra (formerly BBC Radio 7), complements the main channel by broadcasting repeats from the Radio 4 archive, extended versions of Radio 4 programmes and supplements to series such as The Archers and Desert Island Discs.
It is notable for its news bulletins and programmes such as Today and The World at One, heralded on air by the Greenwich Time Signal "pips" or the chimes of Big Ben. Radio 4 broadcasts the Shipping Forecast, which reached 150 years old in August 2017. The pips are only accurate on FM, LW & MW as there is a delay on DAB and digital radio of approximately 3 to 5 seconds, even longer online (up to 23 seconds).
|BBC Radio 4|
|Broadcast area||United Kingdom|
|Slogan||Intelligent speech, the most insightful journalism, the wittiest comedy, the most fascinating features and the most compelling drama and readings anywhere in UK radio|
|Frequency||FM: 92.5–96.1 MHz, 103.5–104.9 MHz|
LW: 198 kHz
MW: 603 kHz, 720 kHz, 774 kHz, 756 kHz, 1449 kHz, 1485 kHz
Freesat: 704 (FM), 710 (LW)
Freeview: 704 (FM)
Sky (UK only): 0104 (FM), 0143 (LW)
Virgin Media: 904 (FM), 911 (LW)
Virgin Media Ireland: 910 (FM)
Various frequencies on analogue cable
|First air date||30 September 1967|
|Format||News, talk, and drama|
|Former callsigns||BBC Home Service|
|Sister stations||BBC Radio 4 Extra|
|Website||BBC Radio 4|
BBC Radio 4 is the second most popular British domestic radio station by total hours, after Radio 2 – and the most popular in London and the South of England. It recorded its highest audience, of 11 million listeners, in May 2011 and was "UK Radio Station of the Year" at the 2003, 2004 and 2008 Sony Radio Academy Awards. It also won a Peabody Award in 2002 for File On 4: Export Controls. Costing £71.4 million (2005/6), it is the BBC's most expensive national radio network and is considered by many to be its flagship. There is no comparable British commercial network: Channel 4 abandoned plans to launch its own speech-based digital radio station in October 2008 as part of a £100m cost cutting review.
Music and sport are the only fields that largely fall outside the station's remit. It broadcasts occasional concerts, and documentaries related to various forms of both popular and classical music, and the long-running music-based Desert Island Discs. Prior to the creation of BBC Radio 5 it broadcast sports-based features, notably Sport on Four, and since the creation of BBC Radio 5 Live has become the home of ball-by-ball commentaries of most Test cricket matches played by England, broadcast on long wave. As a result, for around 70 days a year listeners have to rely on FM broadcasts or increasingly DAB for mainstream Radio 4 broadcasts – the number relying solely on long wave is now a small minority.
The cricket broadcasts take precedence over on-the-hour news bulletins, but not the Shipping Forecast, carried since its move to long wave in 1978 because that can be received clearly at sea. The station is the UK's national broadcaster in times of national emergency such as war, due to the wide coverage of the Droitwich signal: if all other radio stations were forced to close, it would carry on broadcasting. It has been claimed that the commanders of nuclear-armed submarines believing that Britain had suffered nuclear attack were required to check if they could still receive Radio 4 on 198 long wave, and if they could not they would open sealed orders that might authorise a retaliatory strike.
As well as news and drama, the station has a strong reputation for comedy, including experimental and alternative comedy, many successful comedians and comedy shows first appearing on the station. Following the six o'clock news from Monday to Friday, the station normally broadcasts a thirty-minute comedy programme.
The station is available on FM in most of Great Britain, parts of Ireland and the north of France; LW throughout the UK and in parts of Northern Europe, and the Atlantic north of the Azores to about 20 degrees west; MW in some areas; DAB; Digital TV including Freeview, Freesat, Sky and Virgin Media, and on the Internet. Freesat, Sky and Virgin have a separate channel which broadcasts the Radio 4 LW output in mono, in addition to the FM output.
The BBC Home Service was the predecessor of Radio 4 and broadcast between 1939 and 1967. It had regional variations and was broadcast on medium wave with a network of VHF FM transmitters being added from 1955. Radio 4 replaced it on 30 September 1967, when the BBC renamed many of its domestic radio stations, in response to the challenge of offshore radio. It moved to long wave in November 1978, taking over the 200 kHz frequency (1500 meters) previously held by Radio 2, and later moved to 198 kHz as a result of international agreements aimed at avoiding interference (all UK MW/LW frequencies are divisible by 9) and to mark the station becoming a fully national service for the first time the station officially became known as Radio 4 UK, a title that remained until mid 1984.
For a time during the 1970s Radio 4 carried regional news bulletins Monday to Saturday. These were broadcast twice at breakfast, at lunchtime and an evening bulletin was aired at 5.55pm. There were also programme variations for the parts of England not served by BBC Local Radio stations. These included Roundabout East Anglia, a VHF opt-out of the Today programme broadcast from BBC East's studios in Norwich each weekday from 6.45 am to 8.45 am. Roundabout East Anglia came to an end in mid-1980, when local radio services were introduced to East Anglia with the launch of BBC Radio Norfolk.
All regional news bulletins broadcast from BBC regional news bases around England ended in August 1980, apart from in the south west. Until January 1983 there was no BBC Local Radio in the south west so these news bulletins and its weekday morning regional programme, Morning Sou'West, continued to be broadcast from the BBC studios in Plymouth on VHF and on the Radio 4 medium wave Plymouth relay until 31 December 1982.
The launch of Radio 5 on 27 August 1990 saw the removal of Open University, schools programming and the Study on 4/Options adult education slot to the new station resulting in the full Radio 4 schedule being available on FM for the first time.
Between 17 January 1991 and 2 March 1991 FM broadcasts were replaced by a continuous news service devoted to the Gulf War, Radio 4 News FM, with the main Radio 4 service being exclusively on long wave.
In September 1991 it was decided that the main Radio 4 service would be on FM as FM coverage had now extended to cover almost all of the UK - Radio 4 didn't become available on FM in much of Scotland and Wales until the early 1990s. Opt-outs were transferred to long wave: currently Test Match Special, extra shipping forecasts, The Daily Service and Yesterday in Parliament. Long wave very occasionally opts out at other times, such as to broadcast special services, the most recent being when Pope Benedict XVI visited Britain in 2010.
The longwave signal is part of the Royal Navy's system of Last Resort Letters. In the event of a suspected catastrophic attack on Britain, submarine captains, in addition to other checks, check for a broadcast signal from Radio 4 on 198 long wave to verify the annihilation of organised society in Great Britain.
An online schedule page lists the running order of programmes.
Many programmes are pre-recorded. Programmes transmitted live include Today, magazine programme Woman's Hour, consumer affairs programme You and Yours, and (often) the music, film, books, arts and culture programme Front Row. Continuity is managed from Broadcasting House with news bulletins, including the hourly summaries and longer programmes such as the Six O'Clock News and Midnight News, and news programmes such as Today, The World at One and PM, which by early 2013 had returned to Broadcasting House after 15 years at BBC Television Centre in White City. The news returning to Broadcasting House has also meant that newsreaders can provide cover for continuity, which regularly occurs at 23:00 each night and 16:00 on a Sunday. This has reduced the total number of continuity announcers required each day down from four to three.
The Time Signal, known as 'the pips', is broadcast every hour to herald the news bulletin, except at midnight and 18:00, where the chimes of Big Ben are played. There is no Greenwich Time Signal during the Saturday Afternoon Drama at 15:00 on Radio 4 on Saturdays either. Only pips broadcast on FM/MW/LW are accurate. On all digital platforms they are in delay by between 3 and 5 seconds and even longer online (up to 23 seconds).
Radio 4 programmes cover a wide variety of genre including news and current affairs, history, culture, science, religion, arts, drama and light entertainment. A number of the programmes on Radio 4 take the form of a "magazine" show, featuring numerous small contributions over the course of the programme—Woman's Hour, From Our Own Correspondent, You and Yours. The rise of these magazine shows is primarily due to the work of Tony Whitby, controller of Radio 4 from 1970 to 1975.
The station hosts a number of long-running programmes, many of which have been broadcast for over 40 years.
Most programmes are available for four weeks after broadcast as streaming audio from Radio 4's listen again page and via BBC iPlayer. A selection of programmes is also available as podcasts or downloadable audio files. Many comedy and drama programmes from the Radio 4 archives are rebroadcast on BBC Radio 4 Extra (formerly BBC Radio 7).
Due to the capacity limitations of DAB and increasing sport broadcasts on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra, BBC Radio 4 DAB has to reduce its bit rate most evenings, such that after 7pm its DAB output is usually in mono, even though many of its programmes are made in stereo (including its flagship drama "The Archers"), these can be heard in stereo only on FM, Digital TV on Freeview & Freesat (Ch. 704), Sky, Virgin and on line via BBC iPlayer radio. BBC World Service, which uses BBC Radio 4 FM & DAB frequencies between 01:00am and 05:20am, is in stereo, but only on Radio 4 FM & DAB and not on its own dedicated DAB channel. BBC Radio 4 Extra broadcasts in mono on DAB, but has always been in stereo on Digital TV (Freeview / Freesat Ch 708), Sky, Virgin and online.
Announcers carry out the following duties from Broadcasting House:
Radio 4 is broadcast on:
There have been criticisms voiced by centre-right newspapers in recent years over a perceived left political bias across a range of issues, such as the EU and the Iraq War, as well as sycophancy in interviews, particularly on the popular morning news magazine Today as part of a reported perception of a general "malaise" at the BBC. Conversely, the journalist Mehdi Hasan has criticised the station for an overtly "socially and culturally conservative" approach.
There has been frequent criticism of Radio 4—and Today in particular—for a lack of female broadcasters. In September 1972, Radio 4 employed the first female continuity announcers—Hylda Bamber and Barbara Edwards (an event which caused the Daily Mail to proclaim that Radio 4 had "fallen" to women's liberation). For quite some time, the introduction of female newsreaders led to complaints from listeners; women discussing topics of feminist interest led to similar complaints.
BBC Radio 4 Extra is a British digital radio station broadcasting archived repeats of comedy, drama and documentary programmes nationally, 24 hours a day. It is the principal broadcaster of the BBC's spoken-word archive, and as a result the majority of its programming originates from that archive. It also broadcasts extended and companion programmes to those broadcast on sister station BBC Radio 4, and provides a "catch-up" service for certain Radio 4 programmes.
The station launched in December 2002 as BBC 7, broadcasting a similar mix of archive comedy, drama and current children's radio. The station was renamed BBC Radio 7 in 2008, then relaunched as Radio 4 Extra in April 2011. For the first quarter of 2013, Radio 4 Extra had a weekly audience of 1.642 million people and had a market share of 0.95%; in the last quarter of 2016 the numbers were 2.184 million listeners and 1.2% of market share.Bill Nighy
William Francis Nighy (; born 12 December 1949) is an English actor. He worked in theatre and television before his first cinema role in 1981, and made his name in television with The Men's Room in 1991, in which he played the womaniser Professor Mark Carleton.
Nighy became widely known for his performance as Billy Mack in Love Actually. Other notable roles in cinema include his portrayal of Davy Jones in Pirates of the Caribbean film series, as well as Viktor in the Underworld film series.
He is also known for his roles in the films Lawless Heart, I Capture the Castle, Shaun of the Dead, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Notes on a Scandal, Hot Fuzz, Valkyrie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1, Rango and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. His performances were also acclaimed in the State of Play series and in the TV films The Girl in the Café, Gideon's Daughter and Page Eight, for which he earned Golden Globe nominations, winning one for Gideon's Daughter.Broadcasting House
Broadcasting House is the headquarters of the BBC, in Portland Place and Langham Place, London. The first radio broadcast from the building was made on 15 March 1932, and the building was officially opened two months later, on 15 May. The main building is in Art Deco style, with a facing of Portland stone over a steel frame. It is a Grade II* listed building and includes the BBC Radio Theatre, where music and speech programmes are recorded in front of a studio audience, and the lobby that was used as a location for filming the 1998 BBC television series In the Red.As part of a major consolidation of the BBC's property portfolio in London, Broadcasting House has been extensively renovated and extended. This involved the demolition of post-war extensions on the eastern side of the building, replaced by a new wing completed in 2005. The wing was named the "John Peel Wing" in 2012, after the disc jockey. BBC London, BBC Arabic Television and BBC Persian Television are housed in the new wing, which also contains the reception area for BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 1Xtra (the studios themselves are in the new extension to the main building).
The main building was refurbished, and an extension built to the rear. The radio stations BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio 4 Extra and the BBC World Service transferred to refurbished studios within the building. The extension links the old building with the John Peel Wing, and includes a new combined newsroom for BBC News, with studios for the BBC News channel, BBC World News and other news programming. The move of news operations from BBC Television Centre was completed in March 2013.The official name of the building is Broadcasting House but the BBC now also uses the term new Broadcasting House (with a small 'n') in its publicity referring to the new extension rather than the whole building, with the original building known as old Broadcasting House.Classic Serial
The Classic Serial is a strand on BBC Radio 4 in which classics of English literature are adapted into series of one-hour dramas. It is broadcast twice weekly on BBC Radio 4, first from 3:00–4:00 pm on Sunday, then repeated on 9:00–10:00 pm the next Saturday.
Works adapted have included The Aeneid and A Dance to the Music of Time, featuring actors including Joss Ackland, Judi Dench and Kenneth Branagh.Dan Stevens
Daniel Jonathan Stevens (born 10 October 1982) is an English actor. He first drew international attention for his role as Matthew Crawley in the ITV acclaimed period drama series Downton Abbey (2010–12). He also starred as David in the thriller film The Guest (2014), Sir Lancelot in the adventure film Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (2014), The Beast/Prince in Disney's live action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast (2017), Lorin Willis in the biographical legal drama Marshall (2017), and Charles Dickens in the biographical drama The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017). Since 2017, he has starred as David Haller in the FX series Legion. In 2018, he starred in the Netflix horror-thriller Apostle.Desert Island Discs
Desert Island Discs is a radio programme broadcast on BBC Radio 4. It was first broadcast on the BBC Forces Programme on 29 January 1942.Each week a guest, called a 'castaway' during the programme, is asked to choose eight recordings (usually, but not always, music), a book and a luxury item that they would take if they were to be cast away on a desert island, whilst discussing their lives and the reasons for their choices. It was devised and originally presented by Roy Plomley. Since 2006, the programme has been presented by Kirsty Young.
More than 3,000 episodes have been recorded, with some guests having appeared more than once and some episodes featuring more than one guest. An example of a guest who falls into both categories is Bob Monkhouse, who appeared with his co-writer Denis Goodwin on 12 December 1955 and in his own right on 20 December 1998.Front Row (radio program)
Front Row is a radio programme broadcast on BBC Radio 4 that has been broadcast since 1998. The BBC describes the programme as a "live magazine programme on the world of arts, literature, film, media and music." It is broadcast each week day between 7.15 pm and 7.45 pm and has a podcast available for download. Shows usually include a mix of interviews, reviews, previews, discussions, reports and columns. Some episodes however, particularly on bank holidays, include a single interview with prominent figures in the arts or a half-hour-long feature on a single subject.In Our Time (radio series)
In Our Time is a live BBC radio discussion series exploring the history of ideas, presented by Melvyn Bragg since 15 October 1998. It is one of BBC Radio 4's most successful discussion programmes, acknowledged to have "transformed the landscape for serious ideas at peak listening time". As of 21 June 2018, 808 episodes have been aired
and the series attracts a weekly audience exceeding two million listeners.John Humphrys
Desmond John Humphrys (born 17 August 1943) is a Welsh broadcaster. From 1981 to 1987 he was the main presenter for the Nine O'Clock News, the flagship BBC news television programme, and since 1987 he has been a presenter on the BBC Radio 4 programme Today. He presents the programme with Justin Webb, Nick Robinson and Mishal Husain. Since 2003 he has been the host of the BBC Two television quiz show Mastermind.Humphrys has a reputation as a tenacious and forthright interviewer; occasionally politicians have been very critical of his style after being subjected to a tough interview on live radio.PM (BBC Radio 4)
PM, sometimes referred to as the PM programme to avoid ambiguity, is BBC Radio 4's long-running early evening news and current affairs programme. It is currently presented by Evan Davis and Carolyn Quinn.Radio 4 UK Theme
The BBC Radio 4 UK Theme is an orchestral arrangement of traditional British and Irish airs compiled by Fritz Spiegl and arranged by Manfred Arlan. It was played every morning on BBC Radio 4 between 23 November 1978 and 23 April 2006.
The piece was used as the signature theme to introduce the daily beginning of Radio 4's broadcasting following the early morning handover from the BBC World Service. The theme was immediately followed by the Shipping Forecast. In 2006, the decision by Mark Damazer (Controller of Radio 4 at the time) to drop the Radio 4 UK Theme to make way for a "pacy news briefing" caused much controversy in the United Kingdom, including extensive discussion in the British media and even in Parliament.
Austria-born Spiegl moved to the UK as a refugee in 1939, after his parents fled Nazi persecution of Jews after the Anschluss. He had contributed several pieces of music to the BBC, including a theme for Radio 4 based on a children's skipping rhyme introduced in 1973 (called A Skipping Tune), which was replaced by the Radio 4 UK Theme.Radio Academy Awards
The Radio Academy Awards, started in 1983, were the most prestigious awards in the British radio industry. For most of their existence, they were run by ZAFER Associates, but in latter years were brought under the control of The Radio Academy.
The awards were generally referred to by the name of their first sponsor, Sony, as The Sony Awards, The Sony Radio Awards or variations. In August 2013, Sony announced the end of its sponsorship agreement with The Radio Academy after 32 years. Consequently, the awards were named simply The Radio Academy Awards. In November 2014, it was announced that The Radio Academy would not be holding the awards in 2015, and would be looking for other ways to recognise achievement in the future.The awards were relaunched in 2016 as the Audio & Radio Industry Awards (ARIAS).Reith Lectures
The Reith Lectures is a series of annual radio lectures given by leading figures of the day, commissioned by the BBC and broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and the BBC World Service. The lectures were inaugurated in 1948 by the BBC to mark the historic contribution made to public service broadcasting by Lord Reith, the corporation's first director-general.
Reith maintained that broadcasting should be a public service which enriches the intellectual and cultural life of the nation. It is in this spirit that the BBC each year invites a leading figure to deliver a series of lectures on radio. The aim is to advance public understanding and debate about significant issues of contemporary interest.The first Reith lecturer was the philosopher and Nobel laureate, Bertrand Russell. The first female lecturer was Dame Margery Perham in 1961, who spoke on the impact of colonialism in her series of talks entitled The Colonial Reckoning. The youngest Reith Lecturer was Colin Blakemore, who was 32 years old in 1976 when he broadcast six lectures on the brain and consciousness, titled Mechanics of the Mind.The Archers
The Archers, is a British radio soap opera broadcast on BBC Radio 4—the BBC's main spoken-word channel—since 1951. It was initially billed an everyday story of country folk and now, a contemporary drama in a rural setting. Having aired over 18,800 episodes, it is the world's longest-running drama.
Five pilot episodes were aired in 1950 and the first episode was broadcast nationally on 1 January 1951. A significant show in British popular culture, and with over five million listeners, it is Radio 4's most listened-to non-news programme, With over one million listeners via the internet, the programme holds the record for BBC Radio online listening figures.Partly established with the aim towards educating farmers following World War II, The Archers soon became a popular source of entertainment for the population at large, attracting nine million listeners by 1953.The Lord of the Rings (1981 radio series)
In 1981 BBC Radio 4 produced a dramatisation of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings in 26 half-hour stereo installments. The novel had previously been adapted as a 12-part BBC Radio adaptation in 1955 and 1956 (of which no recordings are known to have survived), and a 1979 production by The Mind's Eye for National Public Radio in the USA.
Like the novel on which it is based, The Lord of the Rings is the story of an epic struggle between the Dark Lord Sauron of Mordor, the primary villain of the work, and an alliance of heroes who join forces to save the world from falling under his shadow.The News Quiz
The News Quiz is a British topical panel game broadcast on BBC Radio 4.Toby Stephens
Toby Stephens (born 21 April 1969) is an English stage, television, and film actor who has appeared in films in both Hollywood and Bollywood. He is known for the roles of Bond villain Gustav Graves in the 2002 James Bond film Die Another Day (for which he was nominated for the Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor), Edward Fairfax Rochester in a BBC television adaptation of Jane Eyre and in his role as Captain Flint in the Starz television series Black Sails. Stephens is a lead in the science fiction series Lost in Space released on Netflix 13 April 2018.Today (BBC Radio 4)
Today, colloquially known as The Today Programme, is BBC Radio 4's long-running early-morning news and current affairs programme, broadcast on Monday to Friday from 6:00 am to 9:00 am, and from 7:00 am to 9:00 am on Saturday. It is the highest-rated programme on Radio 4, and one of the BBC's most popular programmes across its radio networks. Consisting of in-depth political interviews and reports interspersed with regular news bulletins, as well as Thought for the Day, it has been voted the most influential news programme in Britain in setting the political agenda, with an average weekly listening audience around 7 million. It was voted the Best National Speech Breakfast Show at the 2016 Radio Academy Awards.Woman's Hour
Woman's Hour is a radio magazine programme broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in the United Kingdom.